Aquarium.

This morning my husband had to drive his Mum back to London and offered to take #2 with him so that I could hang out with the Mancub for the day. It’s always a treat to have a bit of one on one time with my biggest, and I had it in my head that we would do whatever he wanted with the day, while free from the schedules of preschool and his little brother. It would be nice to follow his lead and see what came of the time.

As soon as I asked him what he fancied, he instantly replied, ‘The Aquarium!’. Not what I expected, but I happened to have a 50% off voucher, plus it was a rainy Saturday, so feeling awfully spontaneous, we headed straight off on the bus.

So often we are out with others, be it the rest of our family or friends and, quite rightly, we have to find compromise and go at the pace of the group. It is nice, on occasion, to not have to nudge the Mancub along, or have him keep up a pace that is either too fast or too slow for his liking. Today the day was entirely his. We rushed through the initial tanks of tropical fish and straight to the rock pool area, where he happily stayed for half an hour, talking to the expert, leaning in and touching the starfish and shore crabs and operating the mini camera. I instinctively went to move him along several times, but he was clearly completely engrossed, so I bit my tongue and let him stay. We whizzed through several other sections too, pausing briefly to take in octopus and jelly fish, before getting to a digital exhibition on prehistoric marine reptiles. ‘Prehistoric is my favourite word!’, he declared, and that’s where we spent the remainder of our outing. It was an absolute pleasure throughout.

As we were in town we popped to the library and took out some books on sharks and fish, then headed home via a pizza restaurant, where he proved that he is still my favourite lunch date, because no one else I know scoops up and eats garlic butter using cucumber as a makeshift spoon, but really more people should.

Back home he spend the rest of the day playing PREHISTORIC MARINE REPTILES! using some of his dinosaur toys and told me that mudskippers are really his favourite fish.

I can’t remember a day where parenting felt so carefree and relaxing. A nice reminder that slowing down and letting them take the lead, avoiding that instinct to always hurry on, often pays off in the end.

Life Lately.

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^^Spring is just around the corner and we are out and about again. #2 being able to walk makes a whole lot of difference and it’s sweet to see the pair of them running around, or in this case waiting impatiently for me by the front door.

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^^A couple of weeks ago the Mancub and I went on our first Mama/son lunch date. We went for a walk around Brighton, popped in to The Dome for some of their International Women’s Day activities, and then to a super kid friendly Italian restaurant. He had a whole plate of white bait (frequently announcing, look I’ve pulled this one’s head off! And now I’m eating it! I just ate an eye!), and we ‘shared’ a fruit salad for dessert, (I was generously gifted two grapes and a strawberry, while he polished off the rest). He was so well behaved and it was lovely to give him my full, undivided attention for a change. As much as I love having his baby brother around, it’s nice to have some treats that are just for me and my biggest boy.

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^^There is nothing sweeter on Mother’s Day than the sound of stage whispers at the bottom of the stairs, followed by some very loud tiptoeing and finally the announcement of, ‘Mama wake up, we brought you some presents! They are flowers and chocolates!’ (He hasn’t quite grasped the concept of surprise yet). We went for our annual trek to The Long Man at Wilmington to take a family photo (our fourth time), then when the wind set in we retired for take away pizza with friends. Take out = zero washing up, so a pretty damn perfect Mother’s Day in my book.

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^^Now the Mancub is settled at preschool it’s such a luxury to have some guilt free one on one time with this little one. When the Mancub was small we did a lot more elaborate craft activities or baking, but that required a lot of preparation and a LOT of clean up afterwards. Time with this one is precious, so we do simple things. We read a lot of books, load his toy Octonauts into the fire engine a hundred or so times, cuddle, and occasionally get the paint brushes and water out on a sunny day. I found the baby stage hard work this time around, but this toddler, despite his increasing hot headedness and propensity to literally throw his toys out of the pram if he doesn’t get his own way, he’s my light.

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^^Nothing makes me happier than these two laughing like drains together.

He ain’t heavy.

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We entered into the two year age gap thing more than a little naively. I was the first in my friendship group to have one child, let alone two so I didn’t have many people to get advice from. And let’s be clear here, having a newborn when your toddler is barely past his second birthday can sometimes make you feel like you might stab yourself in the eye with a fork just because a stint at A and E in acute pain sounds like a nice break.

But then suddenly the little one isn’t a baby any more, and then big one isn’t a fiery ball of toddler rage any more, and what you’re left with is this: two best friends who will do anything to make each other laugh.

Summer bucket list.

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Life seems to be passing us by a little lately. Most days it’s all I can do to get to bed time with the house vaguely in tact, everybody fed and clean, and maybe a last minute outing to the park or beach to keep us all sane.

It’s not for want of trying, but every day seems to get filled so quickly, a laundry list of things to get done during nap times and the sensation of doing the same tasks over and over, while no discernible change occurs. The grass keeps growing, the nappies need folding, the dishes stack up. I am effectively running to stand still. Or going insane, it’s hard to decide.

Add to that the never ending circus of DIY, the weekly visits to see family in London and sometimes, maybe occasionally, just lying there, staring at the ceiling, with a glass of red wine, and it feels like the thing that is getting squeezed out is actually, y’know, doing stuff. Stuff outside of the run of the mill: outings, adventures… fun? Life is what happens when you’re busy wiping food off a highchair for the millionth time that day. Or so sang somebody.

Clearly we are in need of some impetus to get up in the morning, pack up the five (million) things that are required for us to leave the house as a family of four, and just go somewhere. Do something. So when I saw that Meryl from My Bit Of Earth had come up with a Summer bucket list for her family, I was very much into it. This is what we need (plus I get to make a list, so that’s always a bonus).

The weather is good, the days are long and here, in no particular order, are ten things that we plan to do as a family this summer (whether or not there are the highchair needs cleaning).

1. Kite flying at Camber Sands. This is our nearest sandy beach and the Mancub has been fascinated with kites the last few times we’ve seen one being flown, so time to get him one of his own and get it flying.

2. Ride the merry go round on the seafront. Because what good is living at the seaside if you can’t take your kid on an old fashioned merry go round?

3. Visit the Shoreham houseboats. Our friends recommended a trip to this community of weird old houseboats, so we need to go and explore.

4. Go for ice creams at Scoop and Crumb. The Mancub has never yet tasted ice cream. I figure if this summer is going to be his first then we may’s well make it a good one.

5. Swim in the sea. I think I can tempt at least one other family member in with me, but hopefully all of us can at least dip our toes.

6. Go out for a family dinner. Since #2 started eating we are yet to go out for a meal. Time to brave it and let someone else do the washing up.

7. Have a picnic at the top of the garden. Well hopefully we’ll have picnics all over the place, but the top of our garden is such an epic wilderness that it seems like a good place to start.

8. Take a boat trip from St. David’s. In June we’re going to stay on a farm in Wales. Last time we were there we took a boat trip around the coast spotting seals and puffins, which I know the Mancub would love, so we’ll definitely go back for another this year.

9. Play Pooh Sticks in Ashdown Forest. Winnie the Pooh was written just up the road from us and the original bridge that inspired Pooh Sticks is still there so I’m looking forward to a game.

10. Make a den in the lounge and watch a film inside. It’s usually the rainy days inside that get swallowed up with stuff around the house. Next time we get one we’re going to make the most of it.

What’s on your bucket list this summer?

Five Photos.

Five photos from the week. Every day stuff, the things we get up to. I don’t take enough photos, so perhaps this will remind me to start taking more. I might even learn how to use my fancy camera properly one of these days.

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^^Sometimes I get an itch to do something with my hair. It’s been long, short, super short, pink, blue, red, and very, very blonde. But sometimes I want to keep it long and don’t want to fuck it up with any more bleach. So the only option is to shave the bottom off. Now I just need to decide what to do about his.

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^^After a long, intense day of potty training, sometimes what you need is to put the kids to bed and head down to the beach to sit and stare and revel in the lack of children.

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^^While I was at the beach I collected some pebbles and wrote words on them. The Mancub has been having fun learning what they all say and lining them up to make silly sentences. This is such a great pre literacy game. The shape of the pebble and the different coloured writing makes the words easier to learn, but he feels as if he can read. Empowering.

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^^Um, you got a little something on your nose there buddy.

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^^Is there anything more perfect than a row of cloth nappies drying in the sun? We got a new delivery of Easy Peasy Bumbles this week and if you are looking for a cheap and massively absorbent nappy solution that will genuinely take you through to potty training, then I totally recommend them.

The Best of 2013 (According to An Easyworld)

Here’s some stuff I liked this year.

BEST ALBUM I LISTENED TO: My finger is so hard on the pulse that my favourite album of the year was actually released in January 2012, but no matter, The Lion’s Roar by First Aid Kit has been my soundtrack to the year. If I could only listen to one kind of music for the rest of my life it would be whimsical girl folk with cameos by Conor Orberst.
Special mention for Rewind The Film by The Manic Street Preachers, or as they’re known in our house, The Manic Sea Creatures. I’m pretty late coming to this band (like, 20 years late), but they truly are the nicest gents in rock music and my son’s style icons fo’ life.

BEST SINGLE I DOWNLOADED: Hard Out Here by Lily Allen is a weird lyric to sing to your newborn and it led me to accidentally showing my toddler an extreme close up of twerking, but a feminist anthem in the pop charts? I’m sold.

BEST GIG I WENT TO: When I was super pregnant I took my husband to see Martha Wainwright at Komedia in Brighton. We sat right at the back and held hands and pretended that we were still young and the sort of people that go to gigs. Her dryest of dry sense of humour and ball busting voice get me every time.

BEST FILM I SAW: I’m pretty sure that I haven’t seen a single film that was released this year, a point I will rectify in 2014 now I am once again eligible for parent and baby cinema screenings. I guess the best film I watched this year was Life of Pi. Even on a crappy laptop screen it looked incredible and I’m sad I missed seeing it in 3D on the big screen.

BEST TV SHOW I WATCHED: This year we got Netflix, so despite not owning a television set we’ve watched a fair few series. My favourites were Homeland, Orange is the New Black and Portlandia.

BEST BOOK I READ: I finally got around to reading How to Understand Israel in 60 Days Or Less, which is an awesome comic if you’re interested in that sort of thing. I also really loved Moranthology by the brilliant Caitlin Moran and my favourite parenting book ever became How To Get Your Kids To Eat (But Not Too Much) by Ellyn Satter, which should be essential reading for all would be parents.

BEST MEAL I ATE: in the final stages of pregnancy my husband and I tried to go on as many lunch dates as we could when the mancub was off with his grandparents for the day. We managed to squeeze in a meal at Terre a Terre in Brighton, which is surely the best vegetarian restaurant in the world. The churros with salted caramel dipping pot are the stuff dreams are made of.

BEST THING I BOUGHT: We pretty much shunned most other expenditures this year, so that we could afford to do up our house, including a pretty rad loft conversion. It is now completed and hopefully we’ll move up there in the coming months, giving #2 a room of his own when he’s ready for it.

BEST WEBSITE I VISITED: Ah my specialist subject. Once the kids are both in bed I always spend an hour or five with a cup of tea checking my favourite blogs. My favourites for funny, self deprecating parenting stories are Illustrated With Crappy Pictures and Amalah, for inspiration I go to How We Montessori and The Imagination Tree, for sage parenting advise i thoroughly recommend Advice Smackdown, Janet Lansbury and Joyful Toddlers, and for sickeningly beautiful photos and a sense of mediocrity I read Love Taza, My Bit Of Earth and Small Thing.

BEST TUMBLR I HEARTED: Offically my most liked fellow Tumblr is Auspices, which is no surprise as he’s my BFF, like, in the actual world. He takes amazing photos on film cameras (like the one above of me and the mancub at the beach) and does all kinds of crazy shit to them. Recommend.

BEST THING THAT HAPPENED IN 2013: Um, not so much this year. Kidding! Our beautiful little boy made a grand entrance to the world this October and is keeping us on our toes and filling our house with cuteness. The best.

WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2014: Going to the cinema, baby swimming classes, our first family holiday in 2 years, trips to the beach, watching my boys turn 3 and 1 (holy shit!), shifting the baby weight and getting fit again.